Surgical Tribune International

Switzerland offers Europe’s first continuing education course in sex- and gender-specific medicine

By University of Bern
February 12, 2020

BERN/ZURICH, Switzerland: There is increasing evidence that health behaviour and disease manifestation differ substantially between women and men. The universities of Bern and Zurich are now offering the first continuing education program in sex- and gender-specific medicine in Switzerland. The program will start in May and aims to stimulate the implementation of sex- and gender-specific medicine in research and clinical practice. The course is unique in this form in Europe.

At present, a focus on males in basic research and clinical trials means that models of disease are also based on men. Symptoms and disease progression in male patients are therefore considered the standard, while disease manifestations that are usually observed in femals are judged atypical. Cardiology is a typical example of a medical field where treatment concepts have been geared to one specific sex, although presentation and outcomes of many cardiovascular conditions are different in women and men.

Indeed, a heart attack is still considered a typical male’s disease, although women encounter a heart attack just as often—but on average 10 years later than men. “It is known that women with an acute myocardial infarction report more often unspecific symptoms and, consequently, experience higher patient and system delays,” said Prof. Cathérine Gebhard, cardiologist at the University Hospital Zurich and program director for the new Certificate of Advanced Studies (CAS) in Sex- and Gender-Specific Medicine. The opposite scenario also occurs, but much more rarely, according to Gebhard. “Management strategies for typical female conditions such as osteoporosis are derived from predominantly female populations and the disease is widely unrecognised and undertreated in men.”

There are also sex and gender differences in the efficacy of pharmaceuticals: although it is known that drug metabolism is different in the female body, women remain largely underrepresented in most clinical trials. Accordingly, the latest reports from the US Food and Drug Administration for the period from 2004 to 2013 reveal that side effects occur 50% more frequently in women than in men.

The precision medicine of the future should address each individual’s specific needs, said Gebhard: “Considering sex and gender differences in patient care is an important first step.”

The understanding of sex- and gender-specific aspects of medicine increases every year, aided by several thousand research publications. However, their translation into clinical practice is very slow. The inclusion of gender differences in basic medical training is still in the early stages. Therefore, Prof. Daniel Candinas, vice-rector for research at the University of Bern and Clinic Director of the University Clinic for Visceral Surgery and Medicine at the Inselspital Bern, and Prof. Beatrice Beck Schimmer, Vice President Medicine (UMZH) at the University of Zurich, have launched the CAS continuing education program in Sex- and Gender-Specific Medicine.

As of May, eleven modules teaching sex- and gender-specific aspects in various medical disciplines will be available. These will be taught by both national and international experts, include research topics, discuss the latest evidence and touch on the issue of knowledge gaps. In addition to the full CAS, it is also possible to attend individual modules. The further education program is aimed at medical professionals and specialists in related fields who want to broaden their knowledge of sex- and gender-specific differences in medicine and base their practices on the latest research. The CAS is provided by the University of Bern, but modules will be offered both at the universities of Bern and Zurich.

“The CAS in Sex- and Gender-Specific Medicine is a comprehensive study program that should directly benefit the well-being of patients. It is the only one of its kind in Europe,” commented Candinas. “We are looking forward to this collaboration,” added Beck Schimmer.

Interested parties can find more information on the course and registration at

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